It’s January, which means you’ve probably reflected on the goals you hit and missed in 2016. I’m guessing there was an equal amount of regret and praise to go around. Just remember it’s easy to look back and see things we could have done better. As the old saying goes, hindsight is always 20/20.

Still, taking inventory at year’s end is a healthy exercise. In fact, successful folk don’t wait until the end of the year to self-analyze themselves, as they’re constantly looking for ways to improve. But the New Year is as good a time as any to reevaluate yourself. To ensure you start 2017 on the right foot, here are five suggestions you may want to consider:

1. See the People: Stop waiting for — and demanding — a formal customer introduction. Get out of your office and greet the customer. Hey, your customers will appreciate meeting the last person they’ll see before taking delivery. It also works to reset their internal clock. Just make sure to put a smile on your face, as your odds of making a sale suffer if you come off as unapproachable.

2. The 300% Rule: In case you haven’t heard it before, the rule simply recommends that you present 100% of your products to 100% of your customers 100% of the time. The main message here is to resist the urge to decide for the customer. Let them choose the protections they want. I guarantee you’ll be pleasantly surprised.

3. Lender Report Cards: How often does a bank rep come begging for more business? Well, before their next visit, pull a month-end performance report and a make a copy for each rep. Review the report with them so they can see how they stack up against their competition. Contact Dealertrack or RouteOne if you need help accessing this report.

4. Train Others: Every manager at my store participates in weekly sales training. If your store doesn’t, make sure to set aside some time to train the people around you, including management. Remember, leading across as well as up will ensure that everyone is on the same page. And when you help people get what they want, they typically respond in kind.

5. You Can Help: Sometimes things can get backed up on a busy afternoon. And when everyone is spread thin, it’s easy to lose your cool when items are missing from a deal. My advice is to handle those issues yourself. Yes, it’s the salesperson’s fault, but he or she may now be gassing up the car for delivery. So handle it yourself to keep things moving.

Now here are some suggestions for improving your pitch and yourself in 2017:

1. Time Your Presentation: You also want to measure how long customers spend in your office. Remember, time is money, so make the proper adjustments so you can make the most of every deal.

2. Commit to Formal Training: Hey, none of us know it all, so commit yourself to attending F&I and Showroom’s annual conference, which heads to Grapevine, Texas, this year ( The National Automobile Dealers Association also offers F&I sessions at its annual conference, and your product providers usually offer classes as well. So take advantage.

3. Watch Your Chargebacks: Reducing your chargeback percentage should be a major focus in 2017. And remember, reserve statements aren’t always accurate, so be sure to check them. My message here is to be careful when it comes to rate administration, especially when working with a customer who has a relationship with a finance source that’s aggressive in your market. This will help you avoid re-fis that can lead to early cancellations

4. Beef Up Your Menu: Add a new profit opportunity to your menu with the addition of a new product.

5. Don’t be a Workaholic: Make sure you take time off to decompress. You’ll be better for it, and so will your family.

6. Have a Plan: How will you know when — or if — you get there without one. So put together a plan for improvement, whether it’s perfecting your closing skills or responding to objections. Just make sure to include a forecast in your plan so you can track your progress. And remember, the best barometer for success is your past performance, so don’t compare yourself with others.

My last bit of advice is to make certain you own every decision you make this year, because that’s the only way you improve. Good luck in 2017 and let’s smash some personal records!

Marv Eleazer is the F&I director at Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga. Email him at [email protected].

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Marv Eleazer

Marv Eleazer

Finance Director

Marv Eleazer is the finance director for Langdale Ford in Valdosta, Ga.

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